Having a good pot to hold and to admire is like having a good tutor. Having a bad pot to hold can also be instructive. There are lessons to be learned about what weight a pot should be, what proportions are pleasing to the eye, and much to be discovered about the potter, because the pot is often a self portrait of the potter. Does the potter leave throwing marks, or are the marks carefully concealed? Is the clay silky smooth, or it delightfully unprocessed and earthy? Has the potter laboured, and been uncertain of what form the pot should take? Or has the potter arrived at the form purposefully and directly? These things tell us something about the potter's experience and character.
The jug was made by William Fishley Holland. William Fishley Holland was the grandson of Edwin Beer Fishley, who ran the Fremington Pottery in North Devon from 1865 to 1906. William began working at the pottery from 1902, but later built and managed the Braunton Pottery, after the Fremington Pottery was sold.
When he was young, Michael Cardew visited the Braunton Pottery, and William Fishley Holland taught him to throw on the potter's wheel. Michael Cardew would have preferred to have been taught by the old Mr Fishley who threw robust, honest, heavy country pots, but Edwin Beer Fishley died when Michael Cardew was still a boy, and it was William Fishley Holland, who threw thinly and smoothed his pots with a rib, that gave Michael Cardew his first taste of the wheel.
Those of you who read A Devonshire Pottery will know that Doug Fitch recently added Michael Cardew's potter's wheel to his studio, and has been throwing pots on it. I thought it would be nice to introduce Doug's lovely mug to the jug by William Fishley Holland... all I need now is a pot by Michael Cardew (dream on!!) and the circle would be complete!
Ooh the joys of manganese, copper, iron and tin... all stuck together with a goodly dollop of lead and clay!
We had unexpected visitors last night, Natacha Brosset and Rémy Debouttière, young potters from France.
Natacha and Rémy are taking a year off to travel, before they settle down to start their own pottery studio. It was lovely to meet them and to talk pottery. I was excited to discover that Natacha and Rémy had been potting in La Borne in France and knew an old La Borne Kiln that I have admired very much from afar! There are photos and drawings of a La Borne tunnel kiln in The Kiln Book by Frederic Olsen. According to Frederic Olsen's drawing, the internal measurements of the chamber are 27 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 7 and a half feet high, quite a kiln!
Rémy directed me to this web site, www.laborne.fr . There are excellent photos of an 8 meter long anagama kiln that he and Natacha were involved in helping to restore after it had languished for 20 years without use.
I have been busy with more firings of crystal glazed pots, and have also thrown some small to medium sized earthenware pots and planters (which was most enjoyable).
Each firing of the crystal glazed pots is an experiment. I am finding out useful information about the effects of time and temperature on the numbers of crystals formed, their size and shape and am continuing to try the effects of different metal oxides in the base glaze that I am using.
In the most recent firing I grew crystals of up to 4 centimetres, this involved holding the temperature for two hours at just above 1100 degrees Centigrade as the kiln was cooling down from its peak of nearly 1250 degrees Centigrade. The glaze has to be quite fluid to make crystal glazes, and I have been interested to use some of the run off glaze as part of the design of the pot. I glazed the lower part of this pot with a white calcium matt glaze, and the top part only with the crystal glaze. I am pleased with the way the glaze changes from the mirror like top, to the watercolour like runs. I was delighted that the runs stopped just short of the bottom of the pot!
This pot with the yellow/green glaze was glaze fired twice. The first time had a brown crystal glaze with lots of manganese in it. Unfortunately I had been too cautious with the glaze application, and left it too thin towards the lower part of the pot. The second glaze coat, which I applied to correct the glaze problem, was the same base glaze with some nickel instead of the manganese. The glaze was much improved both in cover and colour, but I still had things too thin low down on the pot...., however, this time I liked the effect of the shiny glaze turning thin and dry, and, after several days of indecision, have decided to keep the pot as is and not to re fire.
I tried my copper variation on the crystal glaze, and wanted it to run in spectacular fashion over the calcium matt white glaze. The result was more careful and sweet than what I intended, but I do like the colours where one glaze runs over the other.
This pot ran just slightly too far over the white matt glaze at the bottom, but it has interesting crystals. I tried for variation of crystal shape and size in this firing. After reaching top temperature and holding for a short while, I let the temperature drop to 1120 Centigrade then held that for an hour. For the second hour I quickly climbed to 1145 Centigrade and held that temperature.
This pot has lovely crystals this side, and a dryish patch in the middle of the other side, so... I will have to apply more glaze and re fire it!
I am pleased with this one, it has a glaze that reminds me of a vegetable, maybe a marrow or a watermelon! This was from a firing with a much shorter holding period in the cooling down stage, so crystal size is much smaller.
I must apologise that I have not done glaze testing part 2 as yet. Things have been very busy, but I am hoping that we will be able to put something together over the next few days.
I currently have a display of my work in one window of the Stuart Street Potter's Co-operative, Lower Stuart Street, Dunedin. Getting pots fired for this did make for more than one late night, but I did get the pots there in time.... just! I have crystal glazed pots on display there.
Some Links for you to follow:
Pittenweem Pottery & Art Gallery: information about William Fishley Holland and Michael Cardew.
studiopottery.com: Fishley Holland Pottery, information and photos.
Michael Cardew Video; Michael Cardew demonstrating throwing a pot "off the hump".
Michael Cardew Documentary: Michael Cardew aged 81 preparing clay and throwing a large bowl.